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Ketamine – the Antidepressant of the Future?

Disclaimer: This article looks into the novel research of the clinical applications of ketamine in the treatment of depression. This article is in no way a promotion of recreational drug use, but rather an insight into the steps being taken to improve the psychopharmacology related to depression. It is important to note that the doses given during the experimental ketamine trials which will be discussed in this article are far below that of street doses, standing at a minute 0.5mg/kg.

It is often suggested that drugs can play an aiding role in the development of mental disorders. Heavy cannabis use, for example, has been found to have the potential of doubling the risk of schizophrenia diagnosis in individuals who start taking the drug below the age of 18 (Moore et al., 2007). These types of findings have allowed the development of a negative stigma around the use of any and all types of street drugs. The dopamine hypothesis supports the notion that neurotransmitter dysfunctions can cause mental instabilities, and can present themselves in various forms, including the showing of psychotic symptoms. Many street drugs tend to affect these neurotransmitters, and it would therefore be plausible to say that they can play a role in mental disorders such as depression. However, is this role always a negative one?

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Diagnosis of Special Educational Needs: Yes or No?

Special educational needs often revolve around terms like dyslexia and autism. It has been a contentious topic for many years and a conclusion has still not been reached as to whether a diagnosis would be beneficial for people with learning difficulties. People who support diagnosing students with specific learning conditions believe that better educational help can then be provided. Having said this, some claim that this form of diagnosis would only hinder those students’ academic progress, considering the additional attention laid on them by their teachers and peers. This may perhaps exert an external pressure on them, which stops them from learning in the classroom naturally. With this in mind, to what extent should the diagnosis of special educational needs be supported?

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Psychology in Sport: What Makes the Best?

The world’s best athletes are consistently put in high-pressured situations. Regardless, they can still perform to their best. Environmental factors and one’s mind state dictate performance together with natural ability. But, beyond baseline performance, just how much do psychological factors alter our sporting ability and separate the mediocre from the world-class?

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Ideomotor Apraxia: The Burden of Intentional Movement

Neurologist Dr R. sits with Mr J., a 48-year-old photographer who’d recently suffered a stroke, in his office. Dr R. asks Mr J. to demonstrate a waving motion as if he were saying hello, to which he attempts with some difficulty. When asked to point towards the ceiling, Mr J. again encounters difficulties as he finds himself clenching and unclenching his fist. Dr R. proceeds to hold his hand out in front of him with his palm facing the floor. “Try to imitate the movement,” he asks. With deliberate effort, Mr J. eventually manages. “That’s good!” praises Dr R, “Now turn your hand over.” Mr J., with increased frustration, gives this a try – only to begin repeatedly slapping his hand against his thigh instead.

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The Echo Chamber: Is Social Media to Blame?

With the recent inauguration of Donald Trump and the results of the Brexit referendum, alongside a growth in support for parties like UKIP, it seems that populations of voters are becoming more extreme in their political views.

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Say Yes to The Mess

This article was inspired by Tim Harford’s talk on “The Importance of Being Messy”, an Intelligence Squared Debate, 6th Dec. 2016

Economist Tim Harford puts forth a compelling case to put our autopilot selves on hold occasionally, and embrace the unexpected. While we derive comfort and efficiency from organization and structure, Harford proposes that structure doesn’t always help us get the best out of our abilities, that randomness and chaos force us to become the best versions of ourselves in extenuating circumstances – such as pianist Keith Jarrett’s concert in Cologne, where he gave one of his most powerful performances on an untuned rehearsal piano. Oppenheimer and colleagues (2010) carried out a study on ‘desirable difficulties’ as mechanisms to improve exam performance of students. They found that changing the font of the study material to something relatively uncommon or difficult (think comic sans ms or Ar Decode) helped those students score better than the ones who read the material in more typical fonts like Times New Roman. ‘Complex’ fonts increased attention and slowed their pace of reading, thus leading to more in-depth retention of the material.

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Postgraduate Application Guide (PAG) #4: Work Experience and Future Careers

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As the field of academia gets increasingly more competitive, it becomes harder to impress the admissions office: there are too many intelligent people out there nowadays, so good grades alone just don’t cut it anymore. This is where work experience comes in. Not only does it enable your application to stand out, but also demonstrates your maturity, responsibility, commitment and many other important qualities that make you a worthy applicant. So, work experience is pretty much a necessity for an aspiring psychologist, but you probably already know this from all the careers lectures you had to sit through during your time at UCL. So, what can postgrads advise when it comes to work experience?

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Postgraduate Application Guide (PAG) #3: Interviews and Funding

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Apart from the degree application, the subsequent interview process and the application to relevant funding sources and scholarships are important steps to be taken. Below are some tips and personal experience from various postgraduate students on how to prepare for an interview and secure funding will be covered.

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Postgraduate Application Guide (PAG) #2: CV and Personal Statement

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Academic achievements are undeniably important for applying to postgraduate courses. However, with an imperfect transcript, your CV and personal statement may just be your saving grace. Here, we  provide a guide on what makes a successful CV and personal statement.

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Postgraduate Application Guide (PAG) #1: Introduction to our Postgrads

 

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As the application season is now in heat, we decided to work on a project on postgraduate applications to help our readers currently applying to courses. We interviewed six current and former UCL Masters and PhD students in Psychology-related fields about their applications process. In this project, we will cover academic CVs and personal statements, interviews and funding, as well as desirable experience and prospects after graduation. In this opening post, we will introduce our interviewees and provide a glimpse into why they chose their degree programmes.

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What The Duck: The Science of Swearing

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When I was younger, I had a copy of Even More Terrible Tudors by Terry Deary which I read cover to cover more times than I’d like to admit. One of the historical titbits I found very entertaining was how a school friend of Edward VI was apparently punished by a teacher for proclaiming “thunderous oaths!”—evidently incredibly rude at the time. Obviously, centuries later, we’ve moved on—but we haven’t moved beyond rude words and being punished for using them. Arguably, swear words are a necessary part of language: they’re universal to all cultures and their meaning is often immaterial; it’s the emotional state their use expresses that’s important.

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States Of Mind: History in Review

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Goshka Macuga, ‘Somnambulist’ (2006), courtesy the artist and Kate MacGarry. Source

I went to see ‘States of Mind’ at the Wellcome Collection in October, and I left feeling amazed, educated and inspired. The exhibition brought together works of artists, psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists, exploring phenomena such as somnambulism (sleepwalking), synaesthesia (a sensation in one of the senses, such as hearing, triggering a sensation in another, such as taste) and memory disorders, interrogating our understanding of the conscious experience.

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Mental Health in Media

poohBy: Manying Lo (Bugle Team)

Edited by: Emma Keoy (Bugle Team)

Recently, the Bedford Bugle team visited the Welcome Collection to view the ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ exhibit. The exhibition aimed to capture and re-imagine what early institutions were like for the mentally ill through various artworks and testimonies by the doctors and patients themselves. Some of the abstract art appeared to represent how disorganised and nonsensical the thoughts of some of the patients could be. The representation of the relationship between a patient and their mental illness through art made me think about the representation of mental illness in other forms of media.

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The White Male Effect: Why They’re Fearless

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By: Emily Weigold (Bugle Team)

Edited by: Emma Keoy (Bugle Team)

Long told in traditional folk lore, in stories of lands far, far away and in every bestselling Disney movie, men are fearless. Women worry, tremble and fret but men are bold and men ultimately save the day. Although we may now dismiss this as a product of old, patriarchal attitudes, embracing the potential for both fearless heroes and heroines, psychological studies may allude to an element of truth in the intrepid male aesthetic.

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Do Animals Use Language?

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By: Helice Stratton (Bugle Team)

Edited by: Emma Keoy (Bugle Team)

It goes without saying that the media have a habit of exaggerating the findings of scientific papers. If a journal publishes evidence that starlings may be able to statistically analyse segments of speech—similar to how human infants begin segmenting words (Gentner, Fenn, Margoliash et al. 2006)—an article will likely surface claiming in bold, capital letters: “STARLINGS CAN LEARN TO SPEAK??”. It is understandable we’re so excited to find evidence that animals have some kind of language though—aside from lending credence to the Disney films we watched growing up. Logically, language must have evolved somehow, but we don’t yet know how. Did our mouths, throats and brains evolve to accommodate it? Or was it just adapted from pre-existing physical and cognitive systems? Finding buildings blocks for language in other species will give us a deeper understanding of how our own language instinct evolved.

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